Thursday, December 1, 2011

GARP November 14-28, 2011

Wadi Mousa Jordan:

This was my fourth year with the Great Arab Revolt
Project: looking for artifacts from WW1, tracing
the activities of the Arabs versus the Ottoman.
Noted for the involvement of TE Lawrence, many military
professionals were active in supporting the Arab.
In reality, the Brits were actively sponsoring the
Arab effort - with munitions and money! And following
their own political goals.

I became interested after hearing Neil Faulkner, the
co-director of the project, speak at a TE Lawrence
symposium at Oxford some years ago. I have continued
an involvement as I enjoy being part of a historical
adventure: finding bits and pieces that prove/disprove
various theories.

I look forward to each year's expedition and have convinced
several fellow travelers into participating. I think it
important to bring past into present. I like the historical
and philosophical approach of conflict archaeology. As
I trowel, dig and sieve, I feel closeness with those
figures of the past. It keeps me going as I lug goofer
after goofer of sand, rock and dirt of the spoils heap.

We had seven working days, several orientations and two
days off - trips to Petra and Aqaba (though a few went
to the Copper Mines and Wadi Rum, instead). It was a
combination of volunteers and professionals: Brits,
Canadians, an Australian, an Austrian, Americans, a
Jordanian, a Swiss - some returnees and some newbies.
All ages and backgrounds. Over the two weeks, we blended
into cooperative teams.

We started with a quick trip to Little Petra, then the
ruins and of ancient village and finally, a wreck of a
castle walking distance to the hotel. The next day, was
a visit to Year #2's project at Ma'an, to see the restored
railroad station and Abdullah's palace - which could be
a tourist site but the museum's door was locked - only a
mangy looking policeman about to keep out strays.

Then off to climb one of the many hills, covered with sharp
black volcanic rocks - where I managed to crash into a
trench and do a nice job of banging up shoulder, hip and
knee. I managed to carry on with minimum aches and pains
but it wasn't the best of ways to begin.

Though we were scheduled to work about Abu al Lissan, the
site of the major battle between Hashemites and Ottomans,
it was not possible as there were problems with permissions.
So we ended at Ghadir ed Haz, a building blown up by Arabs
and mentions in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, our bible for
much of the work. From there we went onto Birds Nest Camp
where we worked on tent rings for several days. Not my
favorite assignment!

En route to a new assignment, there was a stop to see the
Japanese made facsimile of the Hejaz RR engine, now used
to transport tourists on a Aqaba-Wadi Rum run. I worked
several days at what was called the Square Fort, with a
day at Petra in between. And Petra, even after three
visits, continues as awesome as ever with a fair amount
of tourists, even in the off season.

The next move was to Sidden's Ridge Camp - named in honor
of the WW1 RFC pilot who mapped the area. Four of us
clogged through a never ending mound of sand, to clear
what appeared to be some redoubt. The only blessing was
that we didn't have to sieve. Along the way, there was a
visit to Udrudh, ancient ruins from several earlier
civilizations. And time to visit digs of years past:
from Wadi Rum to Fassu'ah Ridge, where I worked the
first year with GARP.

While I didn't find anything, others were more successful.
Not only did we come up with WW1 artifacts, but there
was a Roman coin and some probable neolithic items,
which went to the sponsoring Jordanian University.

The final day was spent at Aqaba - looking at those working
at the Aylah Project next to an old Mosque site. I then
wandered happily about the Old City, into the Fort and
next door Museum where the antiques were beautifully
presented. Fascinating city, Aqaba - at the apex of
Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. There was a lot
of new building, but the Old City remains satisfying.

For me, there is nothing as rewarding as a working holiday,
a feeling of contribution. Not that I was discomforted.
I stayed at a 3* hotel, albeit a room with no heat, regular
meals and internet capability. I worked with a dedicated
and interesting group. I was in the Middle East, one of
my favorite areas. What more could one want?

BA was good to me coming home. Upgraded me to Econ+ and
the seat next to was empty. That almost made up for the
overnight at LHR's Terminal 1, Gate 2. Arrived home with 6 dinars and a Dollar - which went for bus fare.

Costs: Airfare SFO-LHR: $955.97. GARP inclusive airfare from LHR, room and board: $3835.

No comments: